Jennifer Longo
Former Coastsider Jennifer Longo as written a young adult novel that focuses attention on teens who are about to age out of the foster care system. Photo courtesy Jennifer Longo

Jennifer Longo’s third novel hits close to home. “What I Carry,” published last month by Random House, is a young adult story that reflects on her own life and that of her daughter.

It tells the story of a young girl about to age out of the foster care system. Longo’s daughter, now 17 years old, was adopted at age 3 out of foster care. A key reason Longo wanted to write this novel was to change the narrative around the foster care system. Specifically, she wanted to address the notion that children and teenagers are responsible for their situations.

She made it a priority to speak with dozens of kids in foster care around the country and get personal insight on the struggles and triumphs of those who were about to age out of the system. 

“We wanted a story that was more about the day-to-day living and what happens when a child ages out, and how a child might end up living in foster care their whole lives,” Longo explained. 

Longo was happy to accept an invitation from Diana Purucker and Cindy Whittemore who wanted to host a launch party for her book. She’ll have a brief reading and discussion starting at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 27 at Ink Spell Books in Half Moon Bay. 

Longo and her family lived on the Coastside from 2005 until they moved to Seattle in 2013. Her daughter attended Farallone View Elementary School for five years, and Longo was an interim Farallone View librarian.

The family maintains strong ties to the Half Moon Bay and comes back nearly every year to visit friends and family. 

Longo wrote two other young adult novels, “Six Feet Over It” and “Up to This Pointe,” in 2014 and 2016, respectively. 

Longo hopes these kinds of stories, in which a character is both independent and yet not afraid to ask for help, is relatable to young readers. It’s the voices of those kids, including her daughter, that are heard throughout the book. 

“If (we made) that one little adjustment of perspective,” Longo explained, “that the kids are in care because of the things adults did, and not the other way around, then I think that could really help with funding and legislation and the view of kids who just need to be taken care of.”

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